After I report

Reporters’ Concerns about Reporting

Reporters are sometimes reluctant to report abuse or neglect for a number of reasons. Here are some typical concerns of reporters with some clarifications.

Not enough information:

Many potential reporters are concerned that they do not have enough information to know for certain if a child was abused or neglected. Always remember: You are responsible for reporting; OCS and/or law enforcement are responsible for investigating. Investigating abuse and neglect is the responsibility of the Office of Children's Services and the law enforcement agency in your area. You need only have a reason to suspect that abuse or neglect has occurred to report.

No follow up:

Reporters wonder if there will be any follow up or if their report makes a difference. While it is true that OCS needs to determine if a report meets criteria before it is assigned for follow up, all reports are documented. This documented information is often very valuable when another person makes a report either at the same time or later. With multiple reports the intake worker has more of a chance to put the pieces of a puzzle together and intervene if necessary. Please don’t be discouraged from reporting even if you feel that in the past OCS has not responded the way you hoped. Every report makes a difference, and all reports help OCS gather important information.


If you make a good faith report, you cannot be held liable for any damages or charged with any crime for reporting.

False Report

A false report is a report that is intentionally dishonest or is not made “in good faith.” OCS has no authority to act when false reporting is suspected. Instead, false reports are sent to law enforcement or the State’s Attorney. A person who intentionally makes a false report may be liable in a civil action. A report that is made from genuine concern for a child’s safety is not considered a false report, even if the facts gathered during the assessment don’t confirm that the child was neglected or abused.

Screening Decisions

After the intake worker gathers information from the reporter regarding the concern, background checks, and follow-up contacts are conducted as needed. Once all possible information regarding the family and the reported concerns are collected, the report is then analyzed to determine whether the report meets investigation criteria and will be screened in for an investigation and assessment or screened out with no intervention by OCS.

If the report is screened in for investigation and assessment, the next decision involves how quickly OCS needs to respond to the reported concerns. There are several considerations involved: does the reported information indicate the child’s safety is threatened or the child is at high risk of maltreatment?; does the perpetrator have access to the child?; is the child’s primary caregiver protective?; and/or are there any caregivers who will act to protect the child? If it is determined that the child is in immediate danger, OCS will respond as quickly as possible. If OCS is unable to physically respond, OCS will request assistance from law enforcement. After receiving and accepting a report for investigation and assessment, there are three response-time decisions that can be made which determine how quickly OCS begins its investigation and assessment; these response times are called priorities. When a report is determined to be a priority 1, a face-to-face contact must be made with the alleged child victim within 24 hours. A priority 2 requires a 72-hour response and a priority 3 must be initiated within 7 days of receiving the Protective Services Report. The screened in report may be shared with law enforcement, a child advocacy center and/or a Tribe in order to coordinate the investigation of the allegations in the report. The reporter’s name/identity is not shared.

If the report is screened out: If the report does not meet the investigation criteria the report is maintained in the file for future reference. A screened-out report may provide additional information which can influence whether a subsequent report is screened in or screened out. A screened-out report may be shared with law enforcement if there is a possibility that law enforcement will investigate. The report is also shared with the child’s Tribe if one is identified. The reporter’s name/identity is not shared.

Office of Children's Services (OCS) is Obligated to Immediately Notify Law Enforcement in Some Situations

Law enforcement investigates potential criminal violations. Some abuse or neglect may involve both OCS through a Child in Need of Aid case, and law enforcement through a criminal investigation for a criminal prosecution.

In the event of an emergency involving an imminent danger or imminent risk of harm, OCS may coordinate a joint response with law enforcement when:

  • The abuse was caused by a person NOT responsible for the child's welfare
  • OCS is unable to determine who harmed the child
  • OCS is unable to determine if the person who harmed the child is responsible for the child's welfare
  • The abuse or neglect results in the need for medical treatment
  • The abuse or neglect was caused by a teacher or other person employed by the school district in which the child is enrolled as a student.
  • The situation involves child sexual abuse or exploitation

Investigation and Assessment Interviews

Once OCS has screened in the report, an Investigation and Assessment worker is assigned to conduct a series of interviews to determine the safety of the child, the risk to the child of maltreatment, the protective abilities of the caregivers, and whether or not there are safety or risk concerns that warrant an intervention. The OCS Investigation and Assessment includes face to face contact with the child, parent(s), caretaker(s), sibling(s) and others residing in the household or who have information relevant to the assessment. If OCS concludes the child is safe, they may close the case without further intervention. The OCS worker may not be able to tell you what action will be taken or how quickly because information about the case is confidential.

Will the child be taken from the home?

A report to OCS may result in services provided to the family to work with them to avoid further state intervention in their lives. This is called a family services in-home case. Alternatively, the situation may require that the children are removed from the parents’ care and into state custody and placed with temporary caregivers to protect them from further harm. If this type of intervention is required, OCS may initiate a Child in Need of Aid case in state court. If the parents concur with a temporary out-of-home placement with a relative or family friend, then OCS can work without legal intervention as long as the child can return home within 60 days. OCS’s first priority is to work with families to help reunify children with parents once the situation is no longer harmful to the children. If that is not possible, OCS’s priority becomes finding a permanent home for the children. This may require termination of the parent's rights, and adoption of the children in the most extreme cases.

Screenshot of Vimeo video
Video: Will the Child be Taken from the Home?

The Young Woman in this video was removed from her home after multiple incidents and reports indicating that she was unsafe. Her story highlights the importance of being vigilant and persistent in reporting perceived abuse. This adult former foster child was eventually adopted and had a happy outcome after numerous traumatic incidents in her life. She describes trauma that occurred after she was taken into care, such as separation from her siblings, but emphasizes that she was still better off than if she had been left in her original home. While the child protection system is far from perfect the State of Alaska, Office of Children’s Services and its partners such as Tribal organizations and youth advocacy groups are working hard to make the system better and to reduce unnecessary trauma to children who must be placed in out of home care. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent or would like learn more about how you could provide support to foster children in Alaska you can find information at Alaska Center for Resource Families.

Will OCS contact me again?

Following the completion of an initial assessment, OCS provides additional information to mandatory reporters (see A.S. 47.17.020 for full legal definition of a mandatory reporter). This information is not shared with other reporters.

OCS policy states that upon conclusion of an investigation and assessment, the OCS worker will inform the mandatory reporter that the investigation and assessment was completed and of the action taken to protect the child. Feedback is provided regardless of whether it has been requested by the reporter. It must be provided within seven days of completion of the investigation and assessment and may be provided orally.

Reporters who are not mandatory reporters will not be contacted. The laws requires that the decisions and follow up with the parents remain confidential to that family. At the same time, if a child is unsafe, or a family needs assistance, OCS will typically contact family, relatives, and family friends.

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